It’s too hot to paint, even for drawing almost. The past few days I’ve been working in my sketchbook, studies for the things I am working on or will start to work on next month. It’s too hot for Caravaggio as well, so that’s for next week. Today I went to pick up a Greek dude I bought in an auction but that’s also for another time. No WIP today, let’s first finish off the last two travel posts. I’ve switched day 6 and 7 around.
On Thursday we went to Albi, known for its ridiculously big brick cathedral. It’s too hot to write large amounts of text, so mostly images hereafter.
I gave up counting the bricks
I wonder how they painted that ceiling.
Looks a bit condescending, this angel
Nothing more uplifting on your wall than a giant apocalypse
Pool party medieval style
There’s people who cuddle cats and there are those other people
Rosy cheeked angel
Saint Cecilia, patron saint of the cathedral, with some relics
Not sure what this is and what happened down there
Monster, no longer in the closet
Lady in the portal with some graffiti on her feet. I was going to write a whole rant about how people have no respect for monument nowadays until I noticed the dates on the scribblings.
There is so much love for you in my heart. Wait, I’ll tear it out, so I can show you.
After our visit to Cordes (see earlier post), we drove on to Penne, another small medieval village. The sight of the castle perched on the rock above the village is quite spectacular.
Again, the streets were narrow and steep so we left the car in the car park and climbed up towards the castle. Along the way we passed the St. Catherine church so we took a peek inside. Per usual, a very dark and medieval looking interior, almost a castle in itself.
The entrance to the church, photobombed by an unknown man.
The church interior
A dramatic head of Jesus and other religious paraphernalia, behind bars in one of the side chapels
Another head, this time above a door
Creative ash tray
Doll’s head in a mouse trap, quirky decoration on the door of a house, mostly interesting because I didn’t know there was a brand of mouse traps called Lucifer.
Local hero Le terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible, some kind of activist and anarchist from what I gather (correct me if I’m wrong)
After paying the entrance fee (6 euros pp) we climbed even higher up towards the castle itself.
As you can see, the castle is quite kaputt so it’s being restored
Taking a dump, medieval style
Hey, look who we got here: great great great great… uncle Charlemagne! (there is a saying all Europeans descend from Charlemagne – explains my carrot nose)
The medieval builders are part of the entertainment. They’re busy chiseling perfectly rectangular stones into less perfectly rectangular stones to repair walls.
Life before Fortnite
And with one last view of the castle, this post comes to an end:
On day 5 of our stay in the Tarn et Garonne, we visited Cordes-sur-Ciel. Cordes is a fortified medieval village and was the most important must see of the area according to the travel guides we took along. The village lies high up on a hill and reminded me of St.Cirq-Lapopie but it was much much quieter down here.
Driving through the village is not allowed (and not possible anyway) so we left the car in a car park at the bottom of the hill and climbed up towards the skies.
Main street with all sorts of small artisan shops
Banners in the main street
Passageways underneath houses
Panoramic view from the terrace at the highest point of the village
A house. Zoom in on the balcony now.
Meal or murder? Fairly spooky inn sign.
Mannequins in a window, slightly creepy.
A curious grotesque
If animals could read…
Shop in the main square, selling all kinds of lecterns and personalised medieval style books and manuscripts. Bit kitsch, ok, ok.
A bad case of pareidolia. I see a surprised face in this. Do you?
Decorative shutter clamp
Time to visit the church:
John the Baptist in a golden fleece. There were many gold painted statues in the churches we visited. They do like bling over here.
Modern painting of Jesus, signed M. Masquin. I have never seen so many Jesuses in one week, nb.
Stained glass window with Saint Sebastian
Then it was time to cuddle the cats:
This pretty cat was not very friendly. When a little girl tried to stroke it, the cat slapped her hand.
This cat was friendly and when I stroked it, it started purring.
But we were not alone. We were being watched by a hidden cat:
After my daily cat cuddles it was time to head on to our next destination, but that is for a new post.
We went on foot and saw some kamikaze birds in the street (French people drive like crazy in general. A few seconds later two cars came speeding round the corner and the first one made an emergency stop so the second driver almost collided with him. An argument ensued. The birds escaped unharmed.)
On day 4 we paid an extensive visit to the village of our base camp. In 2015 there were 1183 inhabitants in Montricoux according to Wiki so as you can guess from these numbers, the village is small but it is very picturesque and quiet. It was a cloudy day around noon so all the shops were closed (siesta hours) and there were hardly any people around. The tourist office consisted of two tables with leaflets and a phone and a set of keys. From this evidence I deducted that a live person is manning the office and that there weren’t many thieves or tourists in the area (despite the warning on the church door claiming the contrary).
According to the guide there is only one must see monument in the village: the castle in which the musée Marcel Lenoir is housed. I will write a separate post about this.
First of all we had a peek around in the church, Saint Pierre de Montricoux. Most French churches are very dark inside so the quality of the pictures is not great.
The square with the austere medieval church. Note the large crowds of tourists.
A statue of Joan of Arc, who is also present in some other churches we visited.
The inside of the church with – amazingly – an other visitor apart from us
One of those creepy glass coffin saint thingies
Skulls on old grave stones
After the visit to the museum around the corner we continued our stroll through the village.
La vache qui rit above a door. The cow is the trademark red cow of a brand of molten cheese, but I assume also a reference to Lenoir (see above) who painted a still life with a box of the famous triangular cheese packets.
Rue de Templiers or Templar Street, but the Templars disappeared a long time ago
There are four cats in this picture. Good luck finding them.
[Solution: cat in flower pot on the left; red cat in the middle and mother cat and kitten on the right]
When we saw a poster for a “Big food market with musical animation”, we made a note in our agenda:
Visions of a lively market with folk musicians and stalls with lots of fresh bread, olives, savoury quiches, cheeses, etc appeared before our eyes. Alas, when the time came, it was raining heavily. So we had to be patient.
Luckily after an hour it stopped raining and we marched towards the village, ravenous like templars and ready to attack the food. When we got there, it was suspiciously quiet in the centre of the village. No location was indicated on the poster but we assumed it would be on the terrace near the river so onwards we marched.
When we finally got there, we saw this:
What? Where was that big food market? All we saw were a couple table with local people eating moules frites. (reminding us of our traditional local “mossel soupers”). There was a small buvette, i.e. a stall where you could buy a drink, and a wagon where moules frites, paella or chicken wings could be ordered. This is France!
The musical animation was a recording. We walked around, not sure what we’d do, and got stared at as if we were curious aliens so we retreated hastily.
Ok, back to the house it was. Luckily we had a plan B and food in the house.
So we went on a last minute holiday, entirely defined by the location of the rental holiday home we would be able to find just a few days before our departure. The requirements were simple: affordable house, no apartment or hotel and preferably not in a holiday park, and with a pool. Our initial plan was to go either to the Provence or to Italy but we ended up in a cabin in the woods, somewhere in the centre of an imaginary triangle drawn between Cahors, Toulouse and Albi. Three years ago we went on a boat trip with relatives on the Lot, which is about 50 km to the North, a few years ago to the Dordogne which is more to the West and I’d been in the region of Carcassonne a couple times before but this was unknown territory of the Languedoc, with lots of remnants of Templars and the Albigensian crusade. Our base camp was located at the outskirts of a small village near the borders of the Aveyron. Yes, we went to France, after they’d beaten us in the World Cup. Treason!
After the touristic mayhem of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse the area seemed almost devoid of tourists. Once there were Cathars here, and boy, did we see a cats. Usually the French countryside is overrun with loose dogs, but here there were endless amounts of cats lying around. I seem to have photographed more cats than churches.
Yes, I am going to show some holiday pictures, ha ha ha ha. Hopefully you find them interesting. Thematically arranged, not chronologically. I may have messed a few up, as I don’t always remember where I took the pictures (and will rely on Google sometimes).
Location: France. Region: the Midi-Pyrénées aka Occitania. It is greener and more humid than the Provence We had plenty of rain and thunderstorms (in the evenings and during the night luckily). The days were hot, and the nights were cool. And, as with any damp region near a river, plenty of mosquitos. Every day we visited a couple villages, some of them part of the Bastides Albigeoises (info can be found on the www, not going to bore you with this). Very medieval, very clean, and almost devoid of tourists (hurray). Fairytale villages fit for Hobbits. The busiest places we went to were Saint-Antonin (but it was market day) and Cordes (but compared to Saint-Cirq it was nothing). Jesus was everywhere but there are also plenty of artists and artisans around, and a few art galleries and museums.
First we had to drive there, though, overcoming the following obstacles:
French traffic and the Seine (every time we go to or via Paris I try to photograph the Eiffel tower, nb)
Purgatory aka French toilets (this was before I used it)
It was more modern than usual but also more disgusting than usual. It looks like some torture device.
Arrival time for the house was Saturday but we left on Friday, keeping the French national holiday and resulting traffic in mind. We often book at an Ibis because it is not too expensive and they’re all more or less the same so you know what to expect. The only affordable room along the way was in the Ibis Budget in Châteaudun, to the West of Orléans. There were some rooms available in the Formula1 near Orléans but after reading the reviews we changed our mind. The Ibis hotels are usually located in the local business park or similar. This one was next to the Intermarché (a large supermarket) and a couple restaurants which was convenient as we were hungry. The room was basic but ok. We’d booked breakfast as well as not to lose time in the morning,. Usually the Ibis breakfasts are acceptable, but this one stank.. The room was dirty, there was barely any bread, no yoghurt, barely any cutlery or plates, the coffee was tepid and the viennoiseries were stale. After reading some review afterwards, it seems like this is not unusual. (The receptionist had to take care of the breakfast room as well, and he couldn’t handle both jobs equally well, obviously). Plus there are always the shameless people who stack their plates with everything in sight and then don’t eat it, like an annoying family just before us.